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It is indeed a sad commentary on the affairs of the main opposition party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which ruled Nigeria for 16 years from 1999 to 2015, that it is now a house divided against itself. Its last convention was fractious and different persons started laying claim to the party’s leadership to the extent that the police authorities had to seal off the secretariat of the party. This is not only sad, it is a blight on the nation’s democracy. All efforts must, therefore, be encouraged to re-position the PDP, for Nigeria needs a credible opposition to the government of the day.
Democracy ceases to be when one party rules and there is none to challenge it. Nigeria needs PDP, or an opposition party with whatever name, to match the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), idea for idea, and plan for plan. Nigeria’s democracy definitely needs a vibrant and patriotic opposition to strengthen it, give the people a choice, and keep the government of the day on its toes so that it observes the tenets and rules of a constitutional system of government. Of course, the way and manner the PDP has carried on, out of government, has revealed its underbelly and shown it to Nigerians as nothing more than a vehicle of convenience only for power, but not prepared for the democratic opposition role.
All the congresses that were held before the botched Port Harcourt convention some days ago were crisis-ridden. Besides, the interim Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, chosen to lead the party before the planned convention, ran into troubled waters as a faction of the party rejected him and the crisis led to a parallel convention in Abuja. The Port Harcourt convention produced yet another temporary chairman before another convention. Clearly, it appears the PDP house is falling at a time the nation needs it most, to lead discussions on the way forward for Nigeria, outside the plans of the ruling APC.
The elders and founders of the party certainly have a lot to do to keep it alive and to ensure that a new party emerges from the ruins left after many of the influential members jumped ship before the April 2015 elections and after inauguration. The party needs to be reminded that it has a responsibility to the nation to lead a credible opposition without which the governing party can be complacent, unimaginative and even tyrannical. Besides, the new governing party must be constantly reminded about the covenant it had with the people who voted it into power and only a credible opposition can prevent a situation in which absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Therefore, PDP needs to find a credible strategy to reinvent itself. And this is urgent. One of the things Nigerians would like to see in this context is an attempt to nurture a research and development platform that will document issues in governance and the development of the country. There is need for a unit that can enhance the knowledge base of a political party. Such units, till date, nurture the most powerful democracy in the world – the United States of America. With the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the National Republican Institute (NRI), America’s democracy thrives on competing ideas, all to the benefit of the people. So, the PDP, and any other party for that matter, must begin its re-invention with a solid think tank.
Nigeria’s democracy needs a purposeful, knowledge-based, credible and remarkable opposition. With a 16-year experience in government, there is no other political party better suited for a service-oriented opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress, with a view to putting it on its toes, than the Peoples Democratic Party.
A house divided against itself, such as the PDP is now, cannot stand to be counted upon to work for public good. No one is naïve enough to set so much store of the Nigerian politician as a paragon of service to the people or altruism. Yet, that is what politics and democracy should be about!
The PDP will do well to redeem itself, open its doors to Nigerians who want to serve, and renew its soul, lest the odium it brought upon itself while in government becomes its signature even out of power.